Cruisin to Asia

Istanbul, Day 3 

We wake up early (ugh) and unfortunately, the power is out in Chill Out Cengo (double ugh). I figure I’ll just rough it and go for the cold shower, trying to think about how much better I’ll feel being clean for the whole day instead of cold for a few minutes. Now, I’m not sure which would have been worse, since it was so cold I basically spent the day covered in soap after showering in a Hostel film-esque shower by light of my cell phone.

But anyway, a shuttle comes to pick us up to go on a boat through the Bosphorus Channel and the Black Sea to Asia after we fuel ourselves with Starbucks (again) and I sit next to a rando on the shuttle, who proceeds to tell me about how in Egypt, she is a tv broadcaster and has her own talk show. She tells me all about my sign as an Aquarius and gives me her email and tells me that if I come to Egypt, I better give her a buzz. Not a bad deal for a 20 minute bus ride.

When we get to the coastline, we get on a ferry which takes us to Dolmabahce Palace, a majestic and jeweled-out palace that I should be appreciating but really I’m just tired as hell. The views aren’t too shabby from the coastline though, and I can imagine why the sultans didn’t want to leave. Too bad all I can think about it ZOLTAN!

ZOLTAN

After we get back on the boat, we get another traditional Turkish meal as our ferry sails over to the Asian side of Turkey, a country that is split on part Europe and part Asia. We don’t do much on the Asia side, basically just get harassed and eat waffles, but whatevs I went to Asia!

Asia... NBD. I'm a boss.

On the way back, we stop at the Maiden’s Tower, a tower that overlooks the city. It was built because a sultan got a fortune that his daughter would die before her 18th birthday by being bit by a snake, so he locked her up in the tower until her birthday. When she turned 18, to celebrate, he came to free her and brought a big basket of fruit… in which a snake had snuck inside and bit her as it got inside the tower.

Later that night, we run through the rain to get to where our pub crawl meets, a weird hodge podge of people that includes us (already a weird mix in itself), a 40ish computer program from Seattle who insists he doesn’t have a job because of the “caste system,” an army medic stationed in Naples, and two girls from Amsterdam who are clearly already wasted. Plus, of course, the leader of our pub crawl, a dad-aged Turkish man named Ali, comes with us and feeds us shots, who turns out to be the best dancer of all. Guess some things don’t fade with age.

Being out and about in Taksim Square is a funny thing. Sometimes you hear American music and you dance along, eager to have found a piece of home. While other times, much like being far from home in the first place, you hear something quite different and you just go with the flow.

The City of Lights

So what is the City of Lights? Why did I name this post that? Honestly, I have no idea. I know Paris is supposed to be the “City of Lights” but after my weekend in Istanbul, I am going to have to politely disagree. Especially considering it rained the entire weekend, trust me when I tell you that city is lit up like a damn Christmas tree.

Day 1 

First of all, when I paid like $125 for my flight to Turkey, a place that doesn’t have a great reputation to begin with, I was kind of expecting a Ryannair-esque flight with Turkish Airlines; you know, the obnoxious 70’s blue upholstery, the fighting for seats, the lack of anything free, and the abundance of stewardesses in hooker outfits. Instead, I got a four-course meal, a row to myself, and some cool Asian music to listen to. Not a bad deal.

Flying into Istanbul reminds you pretty quickly that you’re going somewhere unlike anywhere else you have been lucky enough to visit. As you float over the water, you see the little boats dotting the coast with their lights shining, not too far away from the big opulent mosques and the sparkles that can only exist in the fifth biggest city in the world, which hosts 13 million people.

The Maiden's Tower

Thankfully, since I am directionally challenged, I met another girl on my tour group while getting off the plane who was on her way to the same hostel as me. No really, thank God. A Colombian who was currently studying in Venice, she told me about her ambitions to be a lawyer all while discussing the lack of partying in Venice. Basically, my perfect mix of person.

As soon as the packed shuttle dropped us off in Taksim Square, which isn’t very near the mosques and otherwise attractions and coastline in Istanbul but instead hosts the array of bars and clubs and waffle stands, I became even more thankful I wasn’t alone. Not many of the broken cobble-stoned streets have signs, not many people and speak English, and not many people are girls. Weird. Instead, Taksim Square on a Thursday night bustles with piles of men all clamoring over each other in drunken stupors, whistling and cheering and staring. Besides the men, there are also an odd abundance of cats, who beg just like dogs and crowd the streets just as much. Apparently, as a guide later tells us, the city breeds them for people who can’t afford pets to play with.

We also stop to snag some baklava, a traditional Turkish dessert that is a little croissant-like pastry that is filled with honey or chocolate and lots of other sweet stuff. Who would have thought Turkey would be such a hub for desserts?

This all may sound very un-charming, but actually, it is. It’s a jumble of people in an orderly hustle who are singing and yelling and laughing, their faces lit up by the golden and pink lights in the windows. However, after all day travel, I was still happy to stumble upon our hostel, which was basically someone’s converted house with a couple extra bathrooms thrown in (thankfully).

Chill Out Cengo